Check out Loki’s Wolves by K. L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr, out from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on May 7:
In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters—wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.
The gods died a long time ago.
Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history—because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt’s classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.
However, knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids—led by Matt—will stand in for the gods in the final battle, he can hardly believe it. Matt, Laurie, and Fen’s lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to prevent the end of the world.
Right after the Norns vanished, Cody and the others found him. While the last thing on Matt’s mind was hanging out at the fair, right now, being part of a group might be the best thing. No one would bug him if he stayed with his friends, who also wouldn’t really notice if he was quiet. He wasn’t exactly loud at the best of times. He could just retreat into his thoughts. And he had a lot of thoughts to retreat into.
He had no idea what to do next. Apparently, he was supposed to buddy up with Fen. Which was not happening. Fen wanted nothing to do with any Thorsens, and Matt’s family was worst of all—his dad had been responsible for putting Fen’s father behind bars.
Speaking of his parents, what did they think of all this? He remembered his grandfather’s words. Those who need to know the truth already do. His dad and mom would need to know, obviously. So they must. That’s why they’d been so nice to him. That’s why Dad had given him a hundred bucks for the fair.
Enjoy yourself, son . . . while you still can.
The Norns had said that he didn’t have to die fighting the Midgard Serpent, but Granddad believed the prophecy was fated to come true. That meant he couldn’t go to his grandfather or his family for help. He needed to do this on his own. Gather up the other kids and find Odin. Train. Fight. Win. There was no other way. If they failed, the world as they knew it would end. Which was kind of a big deal.
He was supposed to start with Fen. And then what? He had no idea. He only hoped something would come to him.
He was waiting for Cody and their friends to get off the Avalanche—his stomach sure couldn’t handle that tonight— when he saw Fen trudge past without Laurie, his gaze on the ground, boots scuffing the sawdust as he headed for the exit, looking like he’d had a really bad day.
Matt figured Fen had a lot of bad days, with his parents gone, being passed from relative to relative. Even if Dad said that’s because Fen was too wild for anyone to handle, maybe all the moving around made him a little wild. And those cuts and bruises on his face . . . Matt had heard Fen was staying with his cousin Kris, and everyone knew Kris was quick with his fists.
Thinking about that put Matt in the right state of mind to talk to Fen. Not to tell him about Ragnarök and the Midgard Serpent, of course. That’d be crazy. If Matt had any chance of winning Fen over, he had to take it slow. He’d just happen to be leaving the fair at the same time and bump into Fen and offer him some . . .
Matt looked around. Corn dogs. Sure, that might work.
He told Cody he wasn’t feeling great and was catching a ride home. Then he grabbed a couple of corn dogs. By that time, Fen was leaving. Matt jogged to catch up, but one aunt and two cousins stopped him on the way.
When he reached the exit, Fen had veered right, passing the parking lot and heading into the field. The sun was almost down, but the sky was oddly bright with a faint tinge of yellow. The wind seemed to be picking up, promising another cold night.
Fimbulwinter was coming.
Matt shivered and walked as fast as he could toward Fen, who’d disappeared around some trees. Matt broke into a run then, slowing only when he’d passed the trees, and saw Fen just ahead, trudging along.
“Hey,” Matt called. “Fen? Hold up!”
Fen glanced over his shoulder. Then he turned back and kept walking.
“Shove off, Thorsen.”
Matt jogged in front of Fen and held out the tray of corn dogs. “I was just leaving, too, and I thought you might want these. I bought them, but I’m stuffed.”
“And I look like I’d want your leftovers?”
“They’re not leftovers,” Matt exclaimed. “I never touched them. Even the ketchup’s still in the packets. See?”
“You don’t want them?” Fen asked.
“No, I thought I did, but I ate so much at the feast….”
“Fine.” Fen took each by the stick and whipped them into the field. “The crows can have them. They’re scavengers. Not me.”
Fen walked around Matt and kept going. Matt looked out at the corn dogs, yellow blobs on the dark field, and felt his amulet warm. Maybe offering Fen food hadn’t been a good idea, but he didn’t need to do that. He—
Loki may, or he may not. That is up to you.
Whether Fen led the monsters into the final battle depended on Matt. He took a deep breath, broke into a jog, and called to Fen, but a sudden gust of wind whipped his words away and nearly knocked him off his feet. He recovered and caught up to Fen again, this time walking beside him.
“I noticed your face looks kind of messed—” Matt began. “I mean, you have some bruises.”
“Do I? Huh. Hadn’t noticed.”
“About that . . .” Matt cleared his throat. “If you’re having problems—with Kris or anyone else—you should talk to the counselor at school. No one should do that to you. You’ve got rights.”
Fen stopped and turned. A gust of wind whipped past, and Fen’s hair fell over his eyes. “Excuse me?”
“If someone’s hitting you, you should talk to Ms. Early at school. She can help. It’s against the law for a grown?up to hit a kid. You don’t need to take that.”
“No one knocks me around, Thorsen, unless I’m knocking them back. I got into it with someone, okay? Someone who fought back. Someone with more guts than you.” Fen didn’t shove Matt, but he looked like he was considering it.
“More guts than me? Um, you know what I said last week, about your memory? It really does suck, because I’m pretty sure I did fight back. You jumped me, and you didn’t land a single hit before I knocked you flat on your butt. Which is where you stayed.”
Fen lunged. Matt ducked, swung around, and nailed Fen with a right hook that sent him stumbling. As Matt watched Fen recover, he reflected that this might not be the best way to make friends.
Matt clenched his fists at his sides and held himself still. “I don’t want to do this, Fen.”
“Really? Because it sure looks like you do.”
Fen charged. Matt told himself he wouldn’t hit him back. Defensive moves only. Except, as Coach Forde always said, he really wasn’t good at the defensive stuff. So when Fen charged into Matt, they both went down.
Fen went to grab Matt by the hair, but Matt caught his arm and tried to hold it—just hold it—but Fen started thrashing and kicking, teeth bared, growling, and the only way Matt could stop him was another right hook that sent him skidding across the grass.
Then a blast of wind hit, so strong that it knocked Matt to his knees. He struggled up, blind, his eyes watering. When they cleared, he could make out figures. At least four. Surrounding them. The one in the middle towered over him.
Grown?ups. Someone at the fair had seen the fight and come over, and now Matt had been caught fighting Fen, and his dad was going to kill him before the Midgard Serpent even had a chance—
He blinked as the figures came clear. Not grown?ups. Kids. Six of them. Wild?looking kids, some in well?worn military surplus, others in ripped jeans and T?shirts. Raider Scouts. A weird Boy?Scouts?gone?bad kind of group. His dad and his deputies ran them off every time they found their campsite. Raiders didn’t get their name because they thought it was cool: they really were like old?fashioned Viking Raiders, swooping into town, stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down before disappearing into the woods again.
The biggest one looked about sixteen. He wore shredded jeans, hiking boots, and a skintight sleeveless shirt that showed scars on both arms. The group leader. Had to be. As Matt tensed, he kept his gaze on him. First sign of trouble, that was his target.
The leader reached down and picked up Fen by the scruff of his neck. He leaned over to whisper something before tossing him aside. Fen hit the ground, and Matt took a step toward him. It didn’t matter that Fen had been trying to beat the snot out of him; Matt wasn’t going to stand there and let outsiders treat a Blackwell kid like that.
But as soon as Matt stepped forward, the boy to his right lunged. Matt wheeled and nailed him with a left. There was a satisfying thwack and a grunt of surprise as the kid staggered back. Matt started toward him, but another kid leaped onto his back.
Matt yanked the kid over his shoulder, thinking as he did that the kid seemed awfully light. When Matt threw him down, he found himself standing over a boy no more than ten. Matt froze then, his gut clenching, an apology on his lips. The boy grabbed Matt’s leg. Matt tried to kick him off, but halfheartedly. When you grow up bigger than other guys, you learn really fast that if you so much as shove a little kid you’ll get hauled down to the office for a lecture on bullying and a call home.
The kid sunk his teeth into Matt’s shin. Matt yelped and tried to yank back, but another kid jumped him. He wheeled to swing, but this one was a girl, and seeing her face, even twisted into a snarl, made his hand stop midpunch. Hit a little kid? Or a girl? He knew better than that.
The wind howled past, stinging his eyes again, and he dimly saw the girl go flying. For a second, Matt thought he’d accidentally hit her, but when he blinked, he saw Fen slamming his fist into her gut. Then he turned on Matt.
“I need to rescue you from a little kid and a girl? Really?” Fen grabbed for the boy, still snarling on Matt’s leg, but another kid jumped him from behind. As Fen hit him, he yelled back at Matt. “Fight, Thorsen!”
Matt shook his leg, trying to disengage the boy. Behind him, another one snickered, taking in the spectacle as he waited his turn.
“Thorsen!” Fen snarled.
“But he’s just a—”
“He’s a Raider!” Fen yelled.
The boy lunged to bite again, and Matt grabbed him by the arm and threw him to the side. Then he looked up to see the leader smirking. The boy was twisting, scrambling to his feet, and to Matt’s left, another was getting ready to take a run at him—a kid closer to his age, but scrawny, half a foot shorter. Matt glanced back at the leader, just standing there, arms crossed.
Matt charged. He heard Fen shout “No!” but Matt didn’t stop. At tournaments, Coach Forde always tried to arrange it so Matt took on his toughest opponent first. Take care of the biggest threat while you’re fresh. If you win the round, you’re left with weaker guys who’ve just seen you knock out their best fighter.
As Matt rushed the Raider leader, he saw surprise flash across the Raider’s face. Matt barreled into the guy and sent him staggering. It was only a stagger, though, and the guy came back swinging. Matt managed to duck the first blow, but he took the second to the side of his face, his neck wrenching.
Matt swung. He landed three blows in quick succession, the last one hitting so hard the guy went flying.
As the Raider leader fell, the wind whipped up again. This time it sent Matt stumbling. His ankle twisted, and he went down on one knee. He started to rise again and—
A low growl sounded behind him.
Matt lifted his head to see a wolf standing there. A giant wolf with gray fur and inch?long fangs. The guy he’d thrown to the ground was gone.
Matt could tell himself that the wolf had somehow run in without him noticing, and the Raider leader had taken off, but one look in the beast’s eyes and he knew better. This was the Raider leader. The guy had turned into a wolf. Now it was hunkering down, teeth bared, ready to leap and—
Someone screamed. A long, drawn?out wail of a scream that made the wolf stop, muzzle shooting up, ears swiveling to track the sound.
Not a scream. A siren. The tornado siren.
Matt looked up and saw that the sky had turned yellow. Distant shouts and cries came from the fair as people scrambled for cover. Then, far to the left, a dark shape appeared against the yellow sky. A twister. It hadn’t touched down, but the gathering clouds seemed to drop with every passing second.
A howl snapped Matt’s attention back to the wolf. It wasn’t the beast howling; it was the wind, shrieking past, as loud and piercing as the siren. The wolf ’s eyes slitted against the wind as it sliced through his fur, and he turned away from the blast.
Matt charged. He caught the wolf with a right hook to the head. The beast staggered, but only a step, better balanced on four legs than two. Then it lunged, teeth flashing. Matt caught it with an uppercut. A yelp, but the wolf barely stumbled this time, and its next lunge knocked Matt down, with the wolf on his chest. He grabbed its muzzle, struggling to keep those jaws away from his throat as the beast growled and snarled. Matt tried to kick it in the stomach, but his foot wouldn’t connect.
Someone hit the wolf’s side and sent it flying off Matt. Matt scrambled up and tackled the wolf. His rescuer did the same, both of them grabbing the beast and trying to wrestle it down. It was only then that Matt saw that it was Fen who’d come to his aid.
“Attacking a wolf ?” Fen grunted as they struggled. “You’re one crazy—” The wind whipped the last word away.
Matt looked across the field. The tornado had touched down. They needed to end this and get to safety. Now.
With a sudden burst of energy, the wolf bucked. Matt lost his grip and slid off. Fen stayed draped over the beast’s back.
“Use your thing!” Fen shouted.
“Your—” Fen’s face screwed up in frustration as he struggled to stay on the wolf’s back. “Your power thing. What you hit me with.”
How did Fen—? Not important.
Matt clenched his amulet. It had barely even warmed since the fight had begun, and now it just lay in his hand, cold metal. When he closed his eyes to concentrate, something struck his back. A chunk of wood hit the ground. A sheet of newspaper sailed past, wrapping around his arm. The next thing that flew at him wasn’t debris—it was one of the Raiders. Matt slammed his fist into the kid, then turned back just in time to see the wolf throw Fen off.
The wolf looked at Matt. Their eyes met. The wolf’s lip curled, and it growled. Even as the sirens drowned out the sound, Matt swore he could feel it vibrating through the air. Matt locked his gaze with the wolf’s. It didn’t like that, snarling and snapping now, but Matt held its gaze, and as the beast hunkered down, Matt pulled back his fist, ready to—
A black shadow leaped on the wolf’s back. Matt barely caught a flash of it before the two went down, rolling across the grass. Then all he could see was fur—gray fur and brown fur.
Two wolves. The big gray one and a smaller brown one. Matt looked over to where the wolf had thrown Fen, but he wasn’t there.
Loki. The trickster god. The shape?shifter god.
Fen was a wolf. These kids all were—which wasn’t possible. The Thorsens all said that the Brekkes didn’t know about their powers. You can’t use powers if you don’t know about them.
He looked at the wolves again.
Apparently, everyone was wrong.
Matt ran at the leader wolf. Another Raider jumped into his path. It was the little kid from earlier, but Matt was beyond worrying about fighting fair. He hit the boy with a blow to the stomach, followed by an uppercut to the jaw, and then shoved him aside.
Now the big wolf had Fen pinned, jaws slashing toward his throat. Matt jumped on the beast’s back. It reared up. Matt grabbed two handfuls of fur, but that was really all he could do. He didn’t have claws or fangs, and he wasn’t in any decent position to land a punch. Just get the thing off Fen. That was his goal. Just—
He saw something sailing toward them as fast as a rocket. A branch or—
“Duck!” he shouted to Fen as he leaped off the wolf ’s back.
He hit the ground hard. He heard a yelp and rolled just in time to see the wolf staggering, a piece of pipe hitting the grass beside him. The beast snarled and tried to charge, but it stumbled and toppled, blood trickling from its ear. It hit the ground, unconscious.
Fen leaped up and they turned to face the other Raiders, who’d been standing back, letting their leader fight. Half of them were wolves now, and they were closing in, growling and snarling, eyes glittering.
A figure jumped one of the human Raiders. It was Laurie. The Raider grabbed her and threw her aside. Two of the wolves jumped Fen. The biggest ran at Matt, but he veered aside and raced toward Laurie. He caught her attacker in the side and knocked him away.
He put out a hand to help Laurie up.
She waved off the help and glowered at him. “I could have handled it.”
“I was just—”
“I’m here to help you two. Not to be rescued,” she said.
Before he could answer, the bigger Raider was on him, and Laurie’s attacker was back on his feet. Matt managed to take down his, and Laurie seemed to be doing okay with hers, but when he went to help her, a hand grabbed his shoulder.
Matt turned, fist raised. It was Fen, now back in human form. He pointed to the east, and Matt saw the twister coming. The dark shape was stirring up a debris cloud, making it seem even bigger than it was.
“We gotta run,” Fen said.
“What? No. We’re—” He slammed his fist into a charging attacker. “We’re fine. That twister—”
“Not the twister,” Fen said as he ducked a blow. He jabbed his finger east again, and Matt made out a group of figures racing across the field. Coming their way. More Raiders. He faintly caught a groan to his left and glanced over to see the big wolf rising.
“We need to run.” Fen gave Matt a shove in the right direction and went after Laurie.
Matt turned to help, but Laurie had thrown off her attacker. Fen grabbed her by the arm, and they started to race toward the fair. Matt took one last look around—at the twister, the Raiders, the giant wolf.
At this rate, I’ll be lucky if I make it to Ragnarök, he thought, and tore off after Fen and Laurie.
Laurie shook off Fen’s arm. Hailstones pelted them as they ran. Everyone knew not to run from tornadoes, but tornadoes and wolves? That changed things, but maybe not everything.
“I don’t want to get separated,” Fen yelled over the wind. He grabbed her hand and twined his fingers with hers.
She yanked away from him again. She was hurt and angry that Fen had kept such a huge secret from her.
“Then hold Matt’s hand,” she yelled back and got a mouthful of the sawdust that was lifting and swirling in the air.
He was family, her best friend—and he’d lied to her. He’s a wolf. How could he not tell me! She felt tears sting her eyes as the wind slapped her face.
She wasn’t sure which of the shrieks and howls in the air were wolves and which were from the tornado sirens and the storm itself. She wasn’t going to look back for either threat. If she’d been at home, she’d have gone into the basement of the building. Here, she wasn’t sure what to do, but Matt seemed to have a plan. She’d never expected to be following a Thorsen, especially after the fight Matt and Fen had had the other day, but right now they were all on the same side: the three of them versus the wolves.
“Over here.” Matt gestured toward the longship.
Climbing up seemed crazy, but the ship would protect them from the hail, flying things, and maybe even the wolves. It wouldn’t protect them from the tornado. The roar of it was awful, and being higher up seemed like a great way to fall farther.
“We can get inside it.” He scrambled up the side of the ship. Matt tapped in a code on a lockbox mounted on the wall. It popped open, and he grabbed a key. “Come on.”
Would Fen go with him? She wasn’t sure, and her loyalties were divided. She might be mad at Fen, but he was still Fen—and Matt was the kid who had thrown Fen at the longship. Was that magic, too? She felt like an idiot. They both knew things. Matt wasn’t freaked out about the wolf thing, either. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but right now, the two people who had answers were both staring at her. A new burst of hurt and anger filled her.
She ignored the hand Matt held out to help her over the side of the ship, and she didn’t say a word as Fen climbed over after her. They crawled across the deck of the ship on their stomachs, keeping themselves as low as possible; the sides of the longship protected them from the worst of the wind and kept them hidden from the wolves.
Matt fumbled at the lock, taking far too long for her liking.
The wind ripped at their clothes and hair; rain and hail pelted them. She opened her mouth to say “Hurry,” and the air took her breath away. She snapped her lips closed.
Behind her, she felt Fen move closer. He had put his body behind her to shelter her from flying branches and hailstones. Because he was blocking her from the storm, his mouth was directly beside her ear. “I wanted to tell you,” he said. “Wasn’t allowed.”
She didn’t answer. Later, they would have to talk—or yell, more likely—but right now, she couldn’t say anything. If she did, she might start crying, and she wasn’t going to look all wussy in front of the two of them.
Matt looked back and said something, but all she caught was “Fen, pull.”
Fen yelled, “What?”
“Pull,” she shouted, turning to him as she did so.
Fen glanced behind him, and then he nodded, apparently satisfied with what he saw—or with what he didn’t see.
As her cousin reached past her, she looked back, too, and realized that no one had followed them onto the ship. She wasn’t sure where the wolves had gone, but they weren’t here now. Maybe they’d had the sense to seek shelter, too. Being caught in a tornado could be deadly for a wolf, just as it could for a person.
Together, Matt and Fen tugged the door open. Matt’s arms were tight as he held on to the door, and Fen had to brace a foot on the wall, but they had the door open. Fen gestured with his head, and even though she couldn’t hear what he was saying, she knew it was some version of You go first.
She scrambled inside, fumbling in the dark, and felt someone bump into her almost immediately.
“Sorry,” Matt muttered as he steadied her. “Steps. Be careful.”
The door crashed shut, taking away any light. She’d already seen that there were steps. They were all standing on a small landing, and another foot in front of her steps descended into the still deeper darkness of the ship. “How many steps?” she asked Matt.
“Maybe twelve. Just follow me.”
“You can’t see any better than I can.” She rolled her eyes, even though neither of them could see. Boys had some pretty ridiculous ideas about what girls could do. She might not be able to wrestle—or turn into a wolf—but she was just as capable of climbing down the steps as they were. Unless… “Can either of you see?”
Fen snorted. “My vision is better than regular people’s, but when it’s this dark, I’d need to be a wolf to see.”
“Right,” she murmured. She started to laugh at the strangeness of . . . well, everything today, but stopped herself. Fen was prickly on the best of days, and he was as likely to think she was laughing at him as not. The sound that started as a laugh ended like a cry.
“Are you hurt?” Fen sounded less worried than he would have if Matt weren’t there, but she knew him well enough to know that he was alarmed.
“I’m fine.” She sighed. It was hard to stay mad at him sometimes; he’d made it his personal goal in life to look out for her, to be there whenever she needed anything. He was a combination of her best friend and brother. She tried to push the hurt further away and said, “Bruises, but that’s all. I think. You two?”
Matt shrugged. “Like going a few rounds in the ring. No big deal.”
Fen snorted. “Yeah, right.”
Matt ignored him and said, “Just feel with your foot. We’re right behind you.”
“Let me pass,” Fen demanded. “I can go first in case—”
“I got it,” she cut him off, and eased her foot forward. The only way he was going to stop trying to shelter her from everything was for her to push him more.
Between the darkness of the storm and the lack of lights inside the ship, she had only her sense of touch to guide her. She made her way down the steps, counting as she went.
“Twelve,” she said when she reached the bottom.
She heard and felt them reach the bottom, too. They stood there in the dark, not speaking. Behind them and above them, she could hear the pinging and thumping of things hitting the wood, and the roar of the storm outside. She wasn’t sure if the boys were scared, but now that they were out of the storm and away from the wolves, the fear of what could have happened hit her, and she shuddered. We’re fine, she reminded herself. Right now, we’re just fine.
She felt around with her hands, but she wasn’t sure what would be down here. Was it storage? Things she’d knock over? And even if it wasn’t, did she want to fumble around in the dark and then have to fumble back to the steps when the storm ended? She ended up standing still.
She hated waiting in the dark while a storm tore around outside. Twisters were scary in a way that blizzards weren’t. They had those in South Dakota, too, but those mostly just meant school was canceled or delayed. Sometimes, there were whiteouts, where the wind blew the snow, and everything was a white blur outside. That was the thing, though: it was outside, and she was safe inside. Tornados were different. Inside wasn’t the same sort of protection from a storm that destroyed buildings. She shivered.
Immediately, Fen’s arm went around her. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get out of here.”
She nodded even though he couldn’t see it and then whispered, “I’m mad at you.”
He growled, and now that she knew he was a wolf sometimes, it sounded somehow more like a real growl. “There are rules. I couldn’t tell you unless you changed, too.”
Quietly, she asked, “Does the whole family change?”
Fen was quiet for a minute. “No, only some of us.” He butted his head into hers, and for the first time, she realized that the gesture was one an animal would make. She’d known it was an odd thing that the Brekkes all did, but she hadn’t made the connection before now. Their version of affection was because they were part animal.
When she didn’t respond, Fen added, “Don’t be mad. Please?”
Matt’s voice saved her from answering. “We can sit over here.”
There was no way to tell how long they would have to wait. They were all wet and cold, and once the storm left, they still had to deal with werewolves—Were they werewolves? Or were they just wolves? She wasn’t sure the term even mattered. “So are you a Raider, too, then? That’s what they all are, right? The Raiders are all wolves.”
“I’m not one of them,” Fen spat. “I follow my own rules, not theirs. They’re wulfenkind, too, but I’m not joining them. I pay my dues . . . and yours, so I don’t have to join them.”
She felt him shrug next to her, but all he said was, “No big thing. Once we figure out if you’re going to change, you’ll either pay, join, or go lone?wolf—like Uncle Stig.”
“Dad is…that’s why he’s always gone?” Laurie felt like everything she’d known was suddenly different. Maybe it wouldn’t have made things easier, but so much made sense now that she knew the family secret. “He could pay them and stay here? Why doesn’t—” She stopped herself. They had other things than her father to deal with right now, but she couldn’t help adding, “I’m not joining them. I can tell you that…and neither are you, Fen Brekke. You think I’m mad now? If you join them, I’ll show you mad.”
He didn’t answer, but he gave her a brief one?armed hug. She’d told him she cared about him. That was all Fen ever really needed when he was worried: to know she cared.
A click in the dark was followed by a flash of fire. In Fen’s hand was a lighter. It wasn’t exactly him saying Let’s change the subject, but it did the trick all the same.
“How long have you had that?” Matt asked.
The light it cast was scant, but she could see stacks of boxes and more than a few cobwebs. Nothing particularly interesting, and then the light went out.
“Did you see any candles?” Matt asked. “Or a lantern?”
“We could burn one of the boxes,” Fen suggested.
“Don’t even think about it,” Matt said. “Give me the lighter, and I’ll look for—”
“Yeah, right. I don’t think so, Thorsen.”
“If we’re going to work together—”
“I don’t remember agreeing to that,” Fen interrupted. “I saved your butt with the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean—”
“You saved me? Were we at the same fight?”
“Stop. Just stop,” Laurie interrupted. “You’re both better than the other one. Now, we can stay here and wait for the monsters to—”
“Wolves,” Fen muttered. “Not monsters.”
“Well, since you didn’t even tell me, how would I know that? And they weren’t being friendly, were they? How would I know what you act like as a wolf, since you hid it from me?” She poked him repeatedly as she spoke.
Fen flicked the lighter again and looked at her.
“You lied to me.” Laurie folded her arms over her chest.
“Um, planning?” Matt reminded them quietly before her glare?fest with Fen could turn into an ugly argument. “Laurie’s right. We need a plan.” He took a breath. “I know this is going to sound crazy, but we need to work together. Quick version: Ragnarök is coming. We have to find the rest of the gods’ descendants. We have two already—I’m the stand?in for Thor, and Fen is for Loki. That’s what the Norns told me tonight.”
“The Norns?” Laurie interjected.
“They’re the ladies in charge of everyone’s fate,” Matt said. “I talked to them, and that’s how I knew I needed to talk to Fen.” He stopped, took a breath, and added, “Look, I know Loki and Thor weren’t always friends in the myths, but they could work together.” He paused and turned to Fen. “I’m guessing you know the Brekkes are descended from Loki.”
The lighter clicked off, so they couldn’t see each other again. Laurie was glad they couldn’t see the shock on her face. Loki? The god Loki? From the myths? She pinched her arm to make sure this wasn’t like her weird fish dream. It hurt, but she was definitely awake—and apparently the only one surprised that their ancestors were real gods.
“Yeah, and that Thorsens don’t think we know.” Fen sounded smug. “Guess you didn’t know some of us kept Loki’s skill in shape?shifting, either. We might have only kept the wolf, but it’s a lot more useful than most of Loki’s shapes.”
Matt let it drop. “So we need to find the other descendants and stop Ragnarök. If we don’t do something, the world will end. They’re not here in Blackwell, so we need to go find them. Are you in?”
Laurie tried to not freak out over the things they were talking about. It was bad enough that Fen had hidden that he was a wolf, but then Matt said the god thing and the whole world?is?ending thing. She’d thought the worst trouble they had to face was theft of a shield. These were much bigger problems. When she could finally speak, she asked, “Why were the wolves after us?”
Neither boy said anything for a moment. Then Matt said, “Maybe they know we’re the god stand?ins.”
“Or they’re just out starting trouble,” Fen added. “You’re a Thorsen, and that means you’re the enemy to wulfenkind.”
“I’m not your enemy, Fen.”
At that, Fen flicked the lighter on again. “Why should I believe you about any of it?”
“I don’t lie,” Matt said simply.
“Fen, I think we can trust him,” Laurie started.
The lighter went out.
Laurie knew that Matt was telling the truth. Somehow, it just made sense to her. Believing it was as easy as believing that she and Fen were descendants of the long?dead god Loki. She wasn’t sure why she was so sure, but she was. The question was how she could convince her stubborn cousin.
Before Laurie could say anything else, though, Fen said, “Fine. If it’s a choice between working with you or the world ending, I can put up with you for a while.”
Although Laurie knew Fen was trying to sound like he didn’t really care, she knew him. That was the voice he always had before he was about to go and do something colossally stupid. It meant that he expected something crazy or dangerous to happen. Proof positive that he expected true trouble if he joined up with Matt came in Fen’s very next sentence: “We need to get Laurie home first and—”
“Are you joking?” All of her anger and frustration came roaring back. She shoved him so hard he fell sideways.
Fen flicked the lighter on and glared at her.
“No,” she snapped. “Don’t even start! You can’t expect me to stay here.”
He sat up, lighter still flickering with its small flame, and began his list of objections. “Come on, Laurie. You’re not the one who has to do this. It’s dangerous, and you don’t have a way to protect yourself.” He jabbed Matt in the arm. “Thorsen has his knockout thing. I have teeth and claws. You’re just a girl, and Uncle Stig will kill me if you get hurt.”
“You’re not going anywhere without me,” Laurie insisted. Fen might think he was keeping her safe by leaving her behind, but she knew that he wasn’t safe without her. Between his temper and his recklessness, there was no way he could avoid trouble when he was here in Blackwell. Once he was on the road running from other wolves and who knows what—or who—else, he’d be in trouble she couldn’t even begin to imagine.
The lighter died again.
“Why would I risk you getting hurt?” Fen asked. She heard the fear in his voice that he always thought he hid, and she understood, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t letting fear—his or hers—stop her. He needed her.
Laurie tried to think of an argument. She felt like she was missing something obvious, and then it hit her. “I met Odin,” she blurted. “Oh. Wow. I thought he was just a weirdo, but I met Odin. Remember? I told you I met a stranger who acted like he knew me.” She filled them in on her whole conversation with Odin and was surprised by how quiet Fen still was when she was done. “Fen?”
Fen flicked the lighter on one more time.
“I’m coming with you, Fen,” she said. “I know what Odin looks like, and he said I’d see him again, so I’m supposed to come.”
Fen opened his mouth to say something, no doubt an objection, but she folded her arms over her chest and used the one thing she knew he couldn’t ignore: “What if the Raiders come back, and I’m here alone? They know who I am, and I’m not a wolf. How am I supposed to fight them on my own?”
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Matt said. “We can take care of her.”
“Take care of me?” Laurie sputtered.
“Yeah,” Fen snarled. “If you’re coming, next time there’s a fight you stay out of it. If they’re up there right now, you let Thorsen and me handle it. Or you can stay here, where it’s safer.”
“Safer?” Laurie echoed. “Did you listen to anything I said?”
“About as well as you did to what I said,” Fen muttered.
They sat in tense silence for a few moments until Matt pointed out, “Sounds like the storm’s ended. Let’s get out of here.”
Cautiously, they started up the stairs. Matt was in front, and Fen was behind her.
When they stepped outside, they stopped and looked at the destruction all around. A lot of the shields on the side of the ship were thrashed. Trees were uprooted. A car was overturned. The stop sign at the intersection had been flung halfway down the block.
Laurie didn’t see any wolves, but people were already appearing, and she wasn’t sure which ones were the ones who became wolves. Fen hadn’t technically agreed to her coming, but she wasn’t going to wait for him to stop being difficult. She looked at him and said, “We need to get out of here before the wolves find us. We’ll stop at home, grab some clothes and whatever money we have, and then figure out where to go.” She glanced at Matt, who was now squirming. “Look, if you’d rather tell your dad, we can—”
“No,” he interrupted. “It’s just . . . I can’t go home.”
Laurie and Fen exchanged a look.
“You’re a Thorsen. Just walk in, get your stuff, and pretend like you’re going to the gym or something.” Fen shook his head. “I know you’ve probably never told a lie in your perfect life, but I can talk you through it. Easy as falling off a pedestal.”
Laurie hid her sigh of relief. If Fen was focused on Matt, he’d stop being a pain about her going with them. She felt a little bad for Matt, but better Matt having to put up with Fen’s teasing than her needing to fight about being left behind in Blackwell.
“I’m okay with lying, Fen,” Matt was saying. “It’s just . . . My family . . .” He took a deep breath. “They don’t expect me to kill the Midgard Serpent. They expect me to die. And, apparently, they’re okay with that.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Fen’s characteristic rudeness vanished, and Laurie wasn’t at all sure what to say. The Thorsens were perfect; Matt had a family, a big family, who treated him like he could do no wrong. Carefully, she repeated, “They’re okay with you dying.”
“They told me I was going to be the one to stop Ragnarök, but I overheard my grandfather”—he paused, and then he spoke really quickly, all his words running together, as he looked at them both—“when I was with one of the Norns. My grandfather and the town council want Ragnarök to happen. Granddad wants me to fight the Midgard Serpent. He wants me to defeat it—so the monsters don’t take over the world—but he expects me to die trying, just like in the myth. Then an ice age will come, and the world will be reborn, fresh and new.”
“After almost everyone dies. That’s messed up.” Fen shook his head. Then he looked at Laurie and said, “We’ll go to your place first. It’s closest. He and I will stay outside. Aunt Janey won’t let you go anywhere with me. Then we’ll stop by the garage for my stuff.”
They didn’t have to worry: her mom wasn’t home, so Laurie left a note and they headed to Kris’ place. Leaving Blackwell seemed scary, but the other descendants weren’t here—and the Raiders were. Plus, there was the whole Matt’s?family?wanting?the?end?of?the?world problem. Leaving home was necessary.
But she was still nervous, and she was sure the boys were, too.
Once they had backpacks and a couple of sleeping bags they’d borrowed from Kris’ garage, she turned to the boys and asked, “Okay, where to?”
The boys exchanged a look. Neither spoke. Day one and they were already lacking any sort of plan. They had no idea what to do. They were kids and supposed to figure this all out . . . because Matt said his family and some women claimed he and Fen were to defeat monsters. It was crazy. No one was saying it out loud, but she suspected they were all thinking it.
Fen turns into a wolf.
There was that one detail, proof that the crazy was real, that kept her from thinking it was all a great big joke. The rest of her “proof” was just her instincts and a conversation with a blue?haired boy. It wasn’t much. The wolf thing was real, though. She’d seen it.
After a few moments, Matt said, “I can do this.”
“Riiiight.” Fen drew out the word. “Didn’t we already decide that?”
“Not that,” Matt said. “Maybe I can . . .” He stood straighter. “I’ll talk to my brothers. They’ll know about this. They’re smart. They can help.”
“Are you sure?” Laurie asked.
Matt nodded, but she didn’t believe him, and from the look on Fen’s face, neither did he.
“I’ll go with you,” Fen suggested. “You”—he looked pointedly at Laurie—“need to stay out of sight in case the Raiders come back.”
She wanted to argue, but she was pretty sure that Fen wouldn’t need much of an excuse to decide to leave her behind. She nodded as meekly as she was able. “Fine.”
This time, she added in her head. I’ll hide and wait this time.
Fen and Matt both looked tense, but she knew they were trying to hide it. They had a start of a plan of sorts. For now, that would have to be enough.
This is going to be a disaster. The world is going to end because we don’t know what to do.
Loki’s Wolves © K. L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr 2013